The loss of a limb or its functionality can devastate a person’s quality of life. The Amputee Coalition estimates 2 million people in the United States are living with limb loss. The congressional research service reports that more than 1,600 amputations involving troops between 2001 and 2010, who were also considered as major limb amputees. Finding a replacement for a limb can be frustrating, expensive and unrealistic. Though a replacement can be possible, seldom is the functionality of the replacement as complete as the original body part. Researchers in Intelligent Systems, robotics, and Cybernetics are working on ways to improve control over prosthetics with direct help from their muscles and nervous system. This technology takes advantage of biomaterials which make up an interface site. These interface sites are stations where neurons from the human body interact with the robotic limb. The interfaces monitor and interpret signals from the nervous system. Once the signals have been received from the neurons, algorithms are used to determine the action of the prosthetic limb. This smart technology of nerve and robot interaction is continually being refined by researcher and they hope to tailor each prosthetic limb to an individual based on the specific interactions.
On a micro scale, researchers at Lawrence livermore National Laboratory are making gains in developing thin-film polymers which mimic the functionality of neurons. They are moving ever closer to designing the world’s first neural system which will enable naturalistic feeling and movement in prosthetic hands. Known as a Hand Proprioception and Touch Interface (HAPTIX), the research hopes to provide control and sensation for amputated hands. If successful, HAPTIX will reduce what is known as “phantom limb” pain, a sensation some amputees feel despite a missing limb. The HAPTIX interface incorporates sensors that provide tactile feedback to the patient from their hand. This means that a prosthetic hand will not only act like a human but will also feel pressure, touch and texture through this smart technology. The biggest challenge for the research team has been deciphering the complex patterns of neural stimulations which act as natural touch and movement.
Most people believe that chess masters are unusually intelligent because they are capable of playing a complex game like chess at a high level. However, evidence showing association between any kind of intellectual ability and chess skill has been strikingly limited. There are however, some studies which suggest high level of logic is required to play chess at an advanced level. In comparison, chess programs which rely on logic perform extremely well and can beat any human. Search trees used by computer programs calculate and prune millions of position a second to find the best moves. How well a chess player prunes and calculates moves may be a gateway to determining if chess players are indeed superior to non-players.
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Chess has been played by many people since it’s introduction in Afghanistan back in 600AD. The nature of the game is based on logic and involves perceptiveness among other skills. So why don’t some studies show any correlation between Intelligence and game mastery? It is because of pattern recognition and experience. A pioneer in empirical studies of the thought processes named De Groot performed an experiment in which he asked world-class chess players to think aloud while they selected their next move for an unfamiliar chess position. What he found was that World-class players and normal players did not differ in the speed of their thoughts or the size of their memory capacity. It was their ability to recognize promising potential moves based on their extensive experience and knowledge of patterns in chess. This idea was further solidified by Simon and Chase when they echoed a similar result by saying experts acquire a large number of patterns and use these patterns as stored knowledge to filter their moves in real-time games.
Although some studies suggest no correlation or negative correlation, there have been recent studies which do show that chess players might have intellectual superiority over non-chess players. For example, a newly published analysis reports that, while there doesn’t seem to be any correlation, it does not mean chess expertise stands in isolation from intelligence. In a study by Roland Grabner, he writes “there are now findings that expert chess players display above-average intelligence, that their playing strength is related to their intelligence.”This might be a glimmer of hope for chess players who are seeking to gain some prestige by playing chess. Incidentally, most research studies that have focused on this issue have noted one similarity among top chess players and that is that they play frequently. They also suggest that chess players who learn the game quickly and rise in ranking are the ones with unusually high IQ.
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Chess programs perform similarly to the suggested human results of the studies. That is, stored positions in a chess program greatly influence the strength of the program. For example, most chess programs have a built in opening book which perform the initial “set up” of moves in a game. Statistics have shown that when the right opening book is used, this can increase its rating significantly. This concept of storing patterns(in humans) or positions (chess programs) is probably a key factor in determining how well a machine or human plays.
This is a hotly debated issue with research suggesting both sides of the argument. This is probably because the definition of intelligence, and therefore the IQ tests used to acquire the level intelligence, are murky. Majority of the research suggests that stored memories of previous game positions are key to becoming a better player. This is also true for chess program because they use stored positions. Until the real truth is revealed, we can only practice till we are perfect.
The advent of Artificial Intelligent robots and their associated repercussions is a hotly debated issue. This is because humanity is on the brink of creating technology that will be able to think, and act according to their built-in perspective on the world. For example, fully autonomous weapon systems such as drones could petrol the skies capable of engaging without human interventions or an autonomous car driving someone to their desired location through a dynamic traffic system. There are a lot of positives and negatives associated with artificially intelligent machines and it’s up to us to decide if it’s worth creating such technology.
Humanity could benefit greatly from AI if controlled effectively. For instance, imagine a senior citizen with bad eyesight and poor reaction time wanting to travel to their daughter’s house 20 miles away. They can avoid taking a taxi and can have their own autonomous vehicle which plans their path and drives them to the desired location safely. This car will not only drive automatically it will have an extremely high reaction time to avoid accidents and will minimize damage if an accident is unavoidable.
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AI robots can range from mini robots inside the house, which help the disabled perform daily task to autonomous airplanes that can take-off, fly, and land without any pilots on board. All of these have many positive implications for humanity because not only do they provide invaluable resources to those who are incapable but AI robots can perform most tasks better than humans.
Perhaps humanity needs to live with some of their shortcomings to prevent the apocalyptic future that some associate with the arrival of AI robots. According to the well renowned astrophysicist Professor Stephen Hawking, artificial intelligence could end mankind if we are not careful. He told the BBC:“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” His opinion stems from the fact that humans are limited by slow biological evolution and can’t possibly compete with the intelligent robots. AI robots will “evolve” faster by building better machines eventually overtaking human performance across all domains. They will then become the dominant force on Earth and could eradicate us at their on leisure.
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Another well-known figure, Elon Musk, also voiced his opinion by saying “we are summoning the demon with artificial intelligence.” His viewpoint is similar to Hawking’s but he believes that their recursive self-improvement will eventually lead them to the realization that humans are detrimental in some regard and thus should be eliminated. “If its [function] is just something like getting rid of e-mail spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans…” said Musk to name an example.
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Since true AI robots have not been invented we can never really be sure how they will behave we can only speculate. Though great minds like Stephen Hawkings give us insight into the grim and darkside of AI, there is no doubt that the benefits of controlled AI are invaluable to the human race.